July 17
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By Vera Martirosyan

TOULOUSE. - The 11th day of Euro 2016 turned to be the most interesting one for me. First I found myself in the lap of childhood; then I fell in love and once again realized that I am a very happy man, but all this in turns.

I left Nice Monday morning and headed for Toulouse. The train I took wasn’t express and I reached Toulouse in seven hours.

A month ago I was flying from Europe to the U.S: it took me eight hours [to reach there], while the road from one French city to another took 7 hours.  On my way, I watched the vineyards, which are innumerable in southern France. It seemed to me I would get exhausted to death when I reached Toulouse. I started regretting choosing Russia vs. Wales match a month ago, when it was necessary to choose the matches. I thought I would be so exhausted upon reaching Toulouse that I wouldn’t even be able to watch the match.

Toulouse is called a Pink City. Yerevan is a city of tufa, while Toulouse is that of pink brick. I wanted to see Toulouse since my childhood. Like many of my peers, I have also grown up captured by classical French literature. As a teenager, my favorite book was “Angélique”by Sergeanne Golon. The film based on that work, Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels, was one of my favorites.

The hero of the novel, Joffrey Peyrac, was the richest man of Toulouse.  He made his gold exactly here and by secret methods. Exactly here in Toulouse the trоubadоurs sаng undеr thе windows of their beloved, and exactly here, in the south, people gave exclusively the first place to love. Therefore, Toulouse is indeed a city of wonders.

When leaving the station, nice buildings reminded me palaces, the people with Arabic appearance looking like counts and the cars like carriages. Seeing Joffrey was all that was left… And, apparently, following such a wonderful atmosphere, exhaustion was forgotten and football started.

Fortunately, Toulouse stadium was not out of the city like that of Nice, Lyon and even Saint Denis. It didn’t have the austerity of Paris, even when the police checked the bags.  Before the game, I could see only Russians around the stadium, joyful feeling rising in me upon hearing songs and chants dear to me.

The reputation of the Russian fans was vivid here. Following the scandal with their involvement, the police are more careful, since the Russians have already managed to stain their good name here.  The Russian fans mainly sang День победы (Victory Day). But I could intuitively feel that there would be no victory. This would simply be their swansong. Upon learning that I am an Armenian, the Russian fans began singing the song А за тобою Арарат (Ararat is behind you) in Armenian.

The Welsh fans walked by the Russians, scanning Fu*k you, England. Of course, I know the history of the peoples of Great Britain, but nevertheless I asked them whether they don’t like English to that extent or are chanting like that after the fights with the Russians.  One of them asked me where I was from. Upon hearing the name “Armenia”, he responded that England is the same for them as Azerbaijan for us, and that they are indeed adversaries. Then they continued their match to the stadium, singing joyfully and friendly.

And here a new love story started. For the first time I found the fans in this Euro, whom I loved very much. Since my [favorite] Dutch were not playing, I was looking in everyone for the model of the fans, which would be joyful, friendly, smart and, most importantly, rather devoted. I can’t describe by words the fanatic zeal which dominated the stadium. Exactly half of the stadium - the red monsters - sang their songs as one, without even stopping for a minute. The melodies of those songs took me to the pages of Welsh history. Those songs brought me the answer to the question that worried me very much. I always wondered why football was so massive exacty in Britain. The stadiums are full even during the matches of the sixth league. We had neaither heard much about the Welsh squad nor watched their chamionship before. Besides Wales, two [other] squads play in England's Premier League, Cardiff and Swansea, during whose  matches the stadiums are indeed crowded. And although the Welsh championship is considered to be very weak, football is still massive here. I was sincerely happy for the Welsh.

I don't want to offend the Russians, but even if they had occupied 80 percent of the stadium, they still wouldn't be able to cheer their team like the Welsh.  Only scanning the name of the team is not enough. I have seen almost all the fans during this Euro, but the Welsh captured my heart. If I asked whose fan I am during ths Euro, I can already name Wales. 

In terms of the match, of course, it was sad to watch the Russians' ''plight''. They were tortured for two halves and left to go home to solve the issues of their own football, leaving Euro to the strongest and the most deserving. I was also delighted by the devotion of the Welsh footballers to their squad. Joe Allen seemed to be the founder of the Marathon race, who tirelessly ran to herald the city about the victory and died. Allen didn't stop for a minute during that match, and fortunately, didn't die. Bale's game was also entrancing. If Ronaldo isn't able to lead his team in Portugal, Bale manages to do this in Wales. Perhaps it's also time to change certain thing in Real as well and break the stereotypes.

This match was perhaps one of the best ones in the life of Aaron Ramsey. As one of my Facebook friends wrote on his Facebook page, Ramsey felt like Andrés Iniesta for the first time in his life.  The match ended, the Russians as always disappointing their fans. First nobody risked to put on the captain's armband after Roman Shirokov left; then they were again reluctant to approach their fans by the end of the match.  Frankly speaking, I didn't see it myself, but I read that only goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev came up to the stall of the fans, while the others were forced to do this. In contrast, the Welsh couldn't calm down: the footballers and fans continuously exchanged applauses.  Leaving the group and being on the first place, leaving England behind, is defininitely a great festivity for them.

The Russian footballers also left the mixed zone after the match. Only the captain Roman Shirokov and President of the Russian Football Federation Vitaly Mutko patiently responded to the journalists' questions. The Welsh footballers approached the journalists, singing joyfully and smiling, and talked for a long time. Even Gareth Bale, who was accompanied by VIP, approached the journalists and responded to all the questions. He declined to answer only one question: Is this victiry more valuable than that of Real in the Champions League.  

By the way, I have alsways considered Bale as one of the ugliest footballers. However, he looked very pleasant in close-up view. Or maybe I have already warm feelings towards Wales.

In the mixed zone, I asked the Spanish TV journalists what was interesting for them in that match. ''Nothing, to tell the truth. But Bale is here and you know who he is in Madrid.''  And thus small Wales, which couldn't even dream of such a miracle, made history.

This Euro is is a Euro of miracles. The very participation of Iceland, Wales, Nothern Ireland, Slovakia and Albania in Euro is already the first miracle. The second one is their leaving the group. We are left with witnessing suprises till the very end. Sitting in the stadium, it occured to me that I am a very happy man. At that moment I even wanted to cry about  this. 18 years ago when I watched the World Championship held in France, I couldn't even dream of being part of this great footbvall festivity one day.  

And at that moment it doesn't matter that you are the only journalist from Armenia or that you are the only female journalist from the group of 300 journalists. The only thing that matters is that dreams can come true. Now I know this for sure. Joffrey Peyrac made gold, and I create my happiness... 

Ucom company is the main sponsor of the Armenian coverage of Euro 2016.

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